NEW YORK -- Matt Damon believes his western Pennsylvania-made fracking film offers an important perspective on where society stands.
“We wanted to make a movie about American identity and kind of where we are right now, and this was the perfect issue because the stakes are so incredibly high,” Damon said on Tuesday night's “Late Show With David Letterman.”
Damon chatted at length about “Promised Land,” arriving in theaters nationally on Jan. 4, in which he plays a landman who convinces farmers to lease their land and relinquish drilling rights to natural gas companies using the environmentally controversial extraction method called fracking.
Filming took place in western Pennsylvania in the Apollo and Alle-Kiski areas of Armstrong County, and West Mifflin Middle School, with some of the local residents voicing displeasure about the film's premise.
“The first day we were shooting, a couple farmers showed up and said, 'Hey, you're doing something...you shouldn't say anything about fracking because we need this,'” Damon said. “The communities are really divided, and that's why it's kind of a great place to set a drama.”
Letterman replied, “Well, that's the razor's edge, because you can't deny people who are interested in improving their economic status.”
“Or hanging onto a way of life they might lose otherwise,” Damon added.
Letterman viewers saw a clip from the movie, where Damon's character talks about how his rural hometown was devastated by the closing of a nearby Caterpillar machinery and engine factory.
“The whole farming town fantasy was just shattered,” Damon's character tells a man seated with him in a restaurant, adding that he's not selling farmers natural gas, “I'm selling them the only way they have to get back.”
Letterman was excited by the clip, telling his audience, “You see what I mean, this is what you need to think about.”
Alluding perhaps to a scene from the movie, which he already watched to prepare for the interview, Letterman said, “And while it's quite dramatic that you can set fire to your tap water, the issues are more than that."
Co-starring and co-written by John Krasinski (NBC's “The Office”), whom Damon likened to a younger George Clooney in terms of acting depth, “Promised Land” is the first film Damon has co-written since “Good Will Hunting,” which earned a “best original screenplay” Academy Award for him and Ben Affleck. “Good Will Hunting” director Gus Van Zant also directed “Promised Land.”
To qualify for the upcoming Oscar awards, “Promised Land” is expected to be screened by year's end in a few select theaters, though not in Pittsburgh.
“Promised Land” already has support from Letterman, who said, “It's a wonderful film,” that in a timely and enjoyable manner shows what fracking “does economically and socially to communities all over the United States.”
Realizing that might not be the language to entice typical moviegoers, Damon joked, “And there are Transformers in it.”
He continued: “There's a huge battle at the end that you don't want to miss, because it's better than anything in 'The Hobbit.'”